Looking Back A Bit With Phil Smith – Final Week Of June

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Sixty five years ago in 1953, Joe McNulty was the Wednesday night Sportsman winner at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Don Collins won at the shoreline oval on Saturday night. Tom VanEpps took top honors in the non-Ford division on both nights.

Sixty years ago in 1958 rain prevailed at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl on Wednesday night. On Saturday night at the CT shoreline oval Dick Beauregard took the Modified win and Hank Stevens took the top spot in the non-Fords.

Fifty five years ago in 1963 Pete Corey and Kenny Shoemaker scored wins on the dirt at Stafford. Ken Meahl won a 60 lap NASCAR Sportsman feature at the Utica- Rome Speedway. Cam Gagliardi finished second with Lou Lazzaro, third. Ed Ortiz and Bill Wimble rounded out the top five. Ted Stack was the 25 lap Modified winner at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Bill Scrivener was the Bomber winner. Steady Eddie Flemke, on his way home after a southern swing with the famed Eastern Bandits capped off his weekend with a 200 lap win at the Old Bridge Speedway in New Jersey on Sunday. Wall Stadium, on the Jersey shore, saw Don Stives take the win.

Fifty years ago in 1968, rain washed out racing at Stafford and Malta on Friday night. Rain also washed out Fonda on Saturday night. The sky cleared at Norwood where Mr. Leo Cleary took the win. Joe Krukowski won at Islip and Don Flynn won at Riverside Park. It was also clear at Waterford where Don Collins scored a 50 lap win. Rick Taylor was the Late Model Daredevil winner. Thompson cancelled the races on Sunday. Utica-Rome ran a 100 lapper with Andy Romano taking the win over Jerry. Cook, Richie Evans, Dave Kotary and Ron Narducci. Sam Reakes won at Fulton. Don Diffendorf won at the Spencer Speedway.

Forty five years ago in 1973, Fred DeSarro started the weekend off with a win at Malta on Friday night. Bugsy Stevens finished second with Richie Evans, third. Stevens stayed up in New York State for a 100 lapper at Tioga on Saturday, which he won. Evans finished second with Jerry Cook, third. At Stafford, Ronnie Bouchard beat out Eddie Flemke for the win. Lou Austin finished third with Don Flynn, fourth. Gary Winters was the winner at Islip. Dick Dunn, in the Al Gaudreau No.3, won his second Modified feature of the year at Waterford. Ron Cote was the late model Grand American winner.

Forty years ago in 1978, Monadnock ran on Wednesday with a 100 lap Yankee All Star League event. Geoff Bodine took the win over Jack Bateman, Punky Caron and Bugsy Stevens. Bodine went on to win four out of five for the weekend as he also took victories at Riverside, Oswego and at Utica-Rome. Maynard Troyer was the only spoiler as he beat the Big Red machine in a 100 lapper at Stafford on Friday night. Other weekend winners were Wayne Anderson at New Egypt, Fred DeSarro at Seekonk, Moose Hewitt at Waterford, Greg Sacks at Islip and Tom Baldwin at Riverhead.

Thirty five years ago in 1983, Thompson ran a 40 lapper on Wednesday which saw George Kent take the win over George Summers and Bugsy Stevens. Friday at Stafford saw Stan Gregger put the Ben Dodge No.36 in victory lane as he beat Mike Stefanik and Ray Miller. Dale Holdredge was the winner at Waterford on Saturday. Richie Evans won 100 lappers at Spencer and Riverside. Tom Baldwin won at Riverhead and Bill Park won at Islip.

Thirty years ago in 1988, the Waterford Speedbowl ran a 100-lap open competition event on Wednesday, which paid $4,000 to win. John Anderson took the win over Tom Bolles, Jamie Tomaino and Richie Gallup. Anderson backed up his win with others at Stafford on Friday and again at Waterford again on Saturday. Reggie Ruggerio was a double winner as he won at Monadnock and at Riverside. Wayne Anderson won a Richie Evans memorial event at Riverhead and Bob Potter scored at Thompson on Sunday.

Twenty five years ago in 1993, Bob Potter scored his 17th career win at Stafford on Friday over Mike Christopher and Bo Gunning. Potter backed it up with his 90th career win at Waterford on Saturday night. Chris Jones finished second with Jerry Pearl, third. The NASCAR modified tour series visited Riverhead Raceway on Long Island. Hometown favorite, Steve Park sat on the pole and went on to win the caution filled event. There were twelve yellows for 68 laps which kept Park’s average speed at 32.459 mph. Reggie Ruggerio finished second and was followed by Rick Fuller and Ed Flemke jr. Ed Kennedy was the winner at Riverside Park. In Winston Cup action at Watkins Glen, Bill Elliot took the win over Terry Labonte.

Twenty years ago in 1998, Rob Summers scored his first ever-modified victory as he won a 75 lapper at Riverside Park on Tuesday. Dave Berube led the event until the two to go mark was reached when Chris Kopec who was down one lap intentionally blocked him. It was a payback for an incident on the 59th lap when Berube and Kopec tangled with the end result being Kopec spinning out and losing a lap. Berube recovered and finished second. Dan Avery, Bob Polverari and Rick Miller rounded out the top five. Lloyd Agor was the Friday night SK-Modified winner at Stafford as he won out over Curt Brainard, Ted Christopher and Jamie Asklar. Tension was high and tempers were short at Stafford. Jim Broderick along with car owners Angie and Tony Cerese were suspended for one week for fighting and Bo Gunning was put on probation for shoving an official. Dennis Gada beat out Eric Berndt and Don Fowler at Waterford and Al Ermarino went pole to pole at Riverhead. Saturday night at Riverside saw Ted Riggot in victory lane and at Thompson on Sunday Mike Christopher was victorious over Bert Marvin and Richie Gallup. The Featherlite Modifieds were at Loudon as a second division to the IRL. A sparse crowd of 20,000 was on hand as Tony Stewart won the IRL event. Mike Stefanik took the lead from Jan Leaty on lap 81 of the 125 lap modified event. In taking the win, Stefanik went over the one million-dollar in earnings mark. Reggie Ruggiero finished second and was followed by Leaty, Tony Hirschman, John Blewett III and Tom Connolly. In Winston Cup action at Sears Point, Jeff Gordon took the win and in Busch Grandnational action at Watkins Glen, road racer Ron Fellows took the win.

Fifteen years ago in 2003, Brad Leighton took the lead on lap 43 in the BGNN 150 at Stafford when Dave Dion spun in oil and went on to take the win, his fourth of the year. Jeff Taylor finished second with Dion, third. Stafford’s SK Modified event rained out. Waterford ran a 100 lapper on Saturday night with Eric Berndt taking the win over Jeff Pearl and Tucker Reynolds. Riverhead went to Frank Vigliaro Jr. In 100degree heat, Bert Marvin went pole to pole at Thompson. Todd Ceravolo finished second with Tom Fox, third. At Riverside, Rob Summers won a 125 lapper over Ted Riggott and Bob Polverari. In Busch Grandnational action at Milwaukee, Casey Atwood hit Jeff Green on the final lap and went on to take the win over Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Glenn Allen. In Winston Cup action under the lights at Daytona, Dale Jarrett took the lead on lap 146 of the 160 lap distance and took the win over Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Burton.

Ten years ago in 2008, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series visited the Thompson Speedway on Thursday night with a new format that consisted of a 75 green flag lap event. Ronnie Silk ended a long dry spell for himself and car owner Roger Hill as he beat out Ted Christopher for the win. Silk, who previously won at Thompson on September 23, 2007, took the lead from Ted Christopher on lap 53 and never looked back while en route to his first win of the season. Bobby Grigas III and Kevin Goodale ran wheel to wheel for the first 21 laps when they tangled in turn four. Goodale spun to the infield and was able to restart at the rear. Grigas ran with Ed Flemke Jr on his bumper until lap 27 when Flemke tapped and spun him in turn four. NASCAR felt the hit was intentional and put Flemke to the rear. Flemke agreed and went willingly. Ted Christopher inherited the lead with Silk in second spot when the field restarted. Christopher survived numerous restarts as the night wore on and the night got cooler. Christopher’s luck ran out following the 12th caution. The yellow flag period dragged for too long resulting in Christopher’s tires cooling off and losing traction. The resulting restart saw Silk rocket from his outside row starting spot and taking the lead upon entering turn one. Christopher managed to hang onto second spot and was followed at the finish by Mike Stefanik, Chuck Hossfeld and Tony Ferrante Jr. Sixth through tenth were Todd Szegedy, Matt Hirschman, Bobby Santos, Kevin Goodale and Ryan Preece.

Earlier in the evening Grigas nabbed his first career Coors Light Pole Award. The second-year driver turned in a time of 18.751 seconds (119.994). He ended up 21st, one lap down. There were 38 Modifieds on hand. A year ago the Modifieds were 10 stronger. The competition was top shelf but competitors were not happy with the format. Despite the fact that the purse for the event was reduced admission prices remained unchanged. Pit area population was down as was the grandstand.

Among those spotted at Thompson were driving legends Carl Bugsy Stevens, Leo Cleary, George Savory and Billy Harman. Despite being crippled up by racing related back injuries the Bugman still has his sense of humor and quick wit. Cleary, the eldest of the group is in the best of health and shape as is Harman who is now an accomplished golfer. Savory is the youngest of the bunch and enjoying his retirement by bankrolling his son’s racing efforts.

Like their big brothers at Thompson the True Value Modified Series at Waterford turned into a wreck fest. The 100-lap event took a little more than 2 hours to complete. A long delay resulted when extensive repairs had to be made to the tracks Armco barrier. Twelve of the 25 cars that started the event were running at the finish. Les Hinkley was the winner. Former Speedbowl regulars Chris Pasteryak and Mike Holdridge, Kirk Alexander, and Vin Annarummo rounded out the top-5. Holdridge was the early leader before being passed by Les Hinckley, Ted Christopher, and Pasteryak. Christopher was later issued the black flag for a smoking motor and retired from the event. Coming out on-top in several restarts, Hinckley repeatedly resisted the charges of Dwight Jarvis, the latter retiring after contacting the wall on lap-70, the victim of a flat right-front. With Pasteryak and Holdridge in-tow, Hinckley lengthened his lead in the final stages of the event, winning by a comfortable margin.

The Thompson Speedway’s Thursday Night Thunder program ran under the features only format. Todd Ceravolo took top honors in a tremendous Sunoco Modified war. Sixteen-year-old Derek Ramstrom scored his second straight win in the Pro Stock division. Tim Sullivan followed suit with consecutive wins in the TIS Modifieds. Jeff Zuidema continued his domination of the Late Model division with his third win of the short season. Mike Romano, in Mini Stocks and Scott Sundeen in the Limited Sportsman division also scored victories during Charter Communications’ presentation of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.

The Stafford Motor Speedway ushered in the summer season with fireworks in the air and on the track with the 8th annual Summer Blast-Off Presented by Town Fair Tire NASCAR Whelen All-American Series program. The big winners of the evening were Keith Rocco in the 40-lap SK Modified feature, Dillon Moltz in the 30-lap Late Model feature, Chris Matthews in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, Bill Davis in the Limited Late Model feature, and Scott Roy in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.

The 40-lap SK Modified feature saw Keith Rocco out duel Ted Christopher to pick up his first feature win of the 2008 season. Doug Coby took the lead at the green and held the lead until he spun on lap-7, which gave the lead to Woody Pitkat. Pitkat held the race lead until lap-19 when Rocco outpowered Pitkat on a restart. Rocco stayed out front until lap-25 when Ted Christopher moved to the front. Christopher held the lead until contact from Jeff Malave sent him spinning on lap-28. Malave was black flagged, which put Rocco back out front. Christopher charged his way back through the pack, but couldn’t find a way around Rocco. Rounding out the top-5 behind Rocco and Christopher was Jimmy Blewett, Tom Bolles, and Curt Brainard.

Todd Ceravolo captured his second feature of the weekend when he won the 35 lap SK Modified feature at the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night. An early wreck collected Rob Janovic Jr., Ron Yuhas Jr., and Jeff Pearl. Only Janovic was unable to continue. Frank Mucciacciaro Jr. assumed the lead briefly before yielding to Ceravolo. Within 5-laps, the yellow flew again for an incident involving Ted Christopher, Don Fowler, and Glenn Pressel III. On the restart Ceravolo resumed the point, pressed by Keith Rocco and Doug Coby. With 23-laps remaining, Coby and Rocco tangled, the latter sent to the rear for rough-riding. Rebounding after an early spin, Dennis Gada eventually passed Shawn Monahan for second. Jeff Paul and Rocco completed the top-5. Other feature winners were Bruce Thomas Jr. (Late Model), Al Stone III (Sportsman), and Phil Evans (Mini Stock). The Speedbowl enjoyed one of the biggest crowds they have had in quite a while.

Carl Edwards was desperate to get back into victory lane in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, and he wasn’t about to let Clint Bowyer stand in his way at the Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wis. Edwards shoved his fellow Sprint Cup series standout sideways with 25 laps to go, then held off Middletown native Joey Logano for his first Nationwide victory of the season after dominating the series last year. But Edwards decided not to do his trademark backflip in victory lane, choosing a subdued celebration because of the death earlier in the day of drag racer Scott Kalitta and the fact that he didn’t win the way he intended to. Logano finished second.

Kyle Busch snapped the slump that plagued him as he won the Toyota/Save Mart 350 on Sunday at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., for his first Sprint Cup victory on a road course. Busch, who had a poor qualifying run and started 30th, steadily moved through the field and grabbed the lead from defending race winner Juan Pablo Montoya on an early restart. It was Busch’s series-best fifth win of the season, and 11th overall spanning all three of NASCAR’s top series. It also was his second road course victory of the season, following a Nationwide win in Mexico City in April. David Gilliland finished a career-best second, followed by Jeff Gordon.

Five years ago in 2013, The Thompson Speedway Thursday Night Thunder Series fell victim to first mist followed by heavy rain. The speedway management pulled the plug at 10:00am in order to save competitors the hassle of having to leave work early.

At the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night Ryan Preece made it two in a row in SK Modified competition. Preece rallied after a mid race tangle with Rowan Pennink. Preece was sent to the rear for being overly aggressive. Tom Bolles finished second, with Pennink coming back to finish third. Woody Pitkat, and Ted Christopher rounded out the top-5.

Other Friday night winners at Stafford were Tom Fearn in the 30-lap Late Model feature, Ronnie Williams in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, Austin Bessette in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Kris Fluckiger in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature. Richie Pallai, Jr. was the winner of the 15-lap CARQUEST Champions For Charities race.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series traveled to the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island Saturday night. Riverhead, a tight and fast quarter mile always provides plenty of slam-bang action and this event kept the reputation alive with 92 of the scheduled 200 laps, which was extended to 207 because of the multitude of wrecks, run under caution. Ryan Preece, who inherited the lead on lap 193 when leader Ted Christopher spun his wheels on a restart and was drilled by Eric Goodale. In the resulting spin, Christopher clobbered the speedway pace car which had just pulled into the infield. Preece, who now had three in a row in Modified Tour competition, led the rest of the way outdistancing Goodale to the finish. John Beatty Jr., Shawn Solomito and Mike Stefanik round out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Woody Pitkat, Ken Heagy, Frank Vigliarolo Jr., Bryon Chew and Ed Flemke Jr.

There were 28 Modifieds on hand. Preece began the race on the front row, overtaking pole winner Ron Silk on Lap 44. A wreck on lap 95, however, knocked the eventual winner out of the top 10, eventually forcing him to pit row for damage. Preece would battle back in the second half, working his way back up to the front row on Lap 183, alongside then race leader Ted Christopher. The two would battle it out over the next 10 laps until Christopher got spun on lap 195, giving Preece the lead for good.

A few did not have a good night on the Island. Doug Coby never made it to the main event. During time trials he had the misfortune of having his throttle stick which resulted in a hard crash between turns one and two. Without a back-up car and unable to make repairs, Coby was unable to start but was awarded last place points for making an attempt to compete. Justin Bonsignore’s night ended after 93 laps as his car suffered broken suspension parts. Don Lia and Eric Berndt finished 15th and 16th as a result of losing laps because of minor accidents. Ted Christopher ende up 18th as he was unable to continue after his confrontation with the pace car. Todd Szegedy ended up 19th as a result of an accident as did Ron Silk who ended up 20th.

Down in the southland at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC Burt Myers held off brother Jason Myers at the start of the first of two 25-lap races for the featured Modified Division and held on the rest of the way. Tony Black, a second-year Modified driver, etched his name on Bowman Gray’s all-time list of feature-race winners with a victory in the second 25-lap race. Myers won the pole position for the first 25-lap Modified race with a lap of 13.358 seconds (67.4 mph) on the quarter-mile track.

Brother Jason hung on for more than a full lap before Burt Myers, who nearly spun after hitting a patch of dirt on the track, finally cleared him and sailed on to his 55th career victory, which tied him for fourth with Paul Radford on Bowman Gray’s all-time list. Jason Myers finished second, Danny Bohn third, Tim Brown fourth and John Smith fifth.

At the Waterford Speedbowl Keith Rocco continued to be the class of the field as he won his fifth SK Modified feature of the season to highlight a fast-paced night NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racing at the Connecticut shoreline oval on Saturday. Diego Monahan took the lead on lap 8 and before Rocco and Craig Lutz joined Monahan for a hard charging three-way battle until lap 26, when Rocco used a crossover move out of turn four to take the lead.

He never trailed again, but had to hold off charges by Monahan and Kyle James to cross the finish line first. James finished second and Lutz wound up third while Rob Janovic Jr. was fourth and Todd Ceravolo placed fifth.

Other Saturday night winners were Dillon Moltz (Late Models), Brandon Plemons (Street Stocks), Bill Leonard (Mini Stocks), Giovanni Giarratana (Legend Cars) and Ed Ryan (Super X-Cars).

Brad Keselowski took his final lead on the 156th lap and went on to a rain-shortened victory Friday night in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Kentucky Speedway.

Matt Kenseth was the winner of the rain postponed Sprint Cup event at Kentucky

Last year, 2017 Modified action shifted to the Seekonk Speedway for Open Wheel Wednesday, which featured the Tri-Track Series with a top prize of $10,000 to win. It’s a long ride from North Hampton PA to Seekonk, MA but Matt Hirschman made it worth his while, as he became the first three-time winner of the event. Hirschman won the fourth qualifying heat and started third in the 100 lapper behind Justin Bonsignore and newcomer Jon Kievman.

Wasting little time, Hirschman blew by Bonsignore on lap three for the lead and held off numerous challenges for 97 laps before taking the checkered flag. Jon McKennedy finished second with Rowan Pennink, third. Anthony Nocella and Tommy Barrett rounded out the top five. Sixth thru tenth included Les Hinkley, Ryan Preece, Todd Annarummo, Woody Pitkat and Blake Barney.

Five caution periods slowed the event. Caution no.1 flew on lap 2 when Doug Coby tangled with Tommy Barrett, Pennink and Eric Berndt on the backstretch.Coby suffered severe left rear damage and was done for the night, Coby was credited with finishing 25th. The second caution flew on lap 8 when Blake Barney stopped in turn four. The third yellow came on lap 20 when Nocella spun and collected Chris Pasteryak, Richard Savory and Eric Goodale. The fourth yellow was for Dennis Perry who spun in turn two and collected Dwight Jarvis. The fifth and final caution was for a spin by Kurt Vigeant in turn 3.

The event was deemed a success with 33 Modifieds and near capacity of fans on hand at the track they call The Cement Palace. Drivers who did not qualify for the Seekonk event got $700 because of the money raised.

The Stafford Speedway cancelled Friday night’s June 30th racing program due to the threat of severe weather.

The Valenti Modified Racing Series made it’s first ever start at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire on Saturday. The race was part of The New England Short Track Showdown produced by race organizer Bob Guptill. Woody Pitkat, of Sturbridge, Massachusetts, led the race 9-times before taking down his first VMRS win for 2017. Pitkat edged Ted Christopher of Plainville, Connecticut by 0.017 at the Sunoco Checkered Flags.

The event produced 17-lead changes, and a hard fought battle right down to the finish. Following Pitkat and Christopher at the finish were 17-lead changes, and a hard fought battle right down to the finish. Following Pitkat and Christopher was Steven Masse, Zane Zeiner and Geoff Gerhard. David Schneider, Anthony Nocella, Donnie Lashua, and Rob Richardi Jr. were sixth through tenth place finishers.

Other winners at Loudon were Justin Trombley in the Mini-Stocks, Corey Hutchings in the Street Stock Showdown and Eddie MacDonald won the Granite State Pro Stock event.

Ryan Preece and his TS Haulers team indeed had plans to run their NASCAR Modified on a quarter mile race track Saturday but that track was to be in New Hampshire not Riverhead Raceway on Long Island. When the planned race Preece and his team hoped to run was rained out at the Monadnock Speedway they changed course and headed south and by the time the 67-lap NASCAR Modified race was completed at Riverhead the former NASCAR WMT champion notched his 16th career win at the historic quarter mile oval.

Howie Brode was runner-up in the Petro Home Services Chevy while Shawn Solomito placed third in the Eastport Feeds Chevy. Tom Rogers Jr. was fourth while championship leader John Fortin rounded out the top five.

On a sad note it was learned that Long Island racing writer Mike Fields had passed away.

The New London Waterford Speedbowl avoided the early evening showers and got all their racing in. Todd Owen and Keith Rocco engaged in a heated battle in the closing stages of the SK Modified event with Owen coming out on top and Rocco settling for runner-up. Kyle James finished third.

Other winners at the Connecticut shoreline oval were Wayne Burroughs Jr. who won the track’s 25-lap Mini Stock feature, Dennis Charette made it two in a row as he won the 25-lap SK Light Modified feature, Ray Christian III won the 30-lap Late Model feature and Jordan Hadley won the 25-lap Limited Sportsman feature.

Down in the south land, the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC, was quiet as the Modified action shifted to the Hickory Motor Speedway in Newton, NC. Where Jerry Gerstner got his first Southern Modified Racing Series win. Gerstner started in seventh position and with the drop of the green immediately started racing forward and took command by lap seven. He led until lap 56 when he got caught in lapped traffic yielding the top spot to Bobby Measmer with Burt Myers taking second and then ultimately the lead.

A caution on lap 69 sent the field to pit road and jumbled the running order and Tyler Truex in command. Gerstner re-started sixth but again charged forward and on lap 74 he was back at the point, taking the top spot from Brandon Ward.

From that point, the fans were treated to a thriller as Gerstner lead with Burt Myers applying constant pressure, even alongside the leader multiple times. A caution on lap 108 would slow the field and rain at the point halted the event. Series official waited nearly an hour before the decision was made to end the night with Gerstner getting the victory.

Burt Myers finished in the second spot with John Smith third. Danny Bohn and Bobby Measmer Jr. completed the top five.

In NASCAR Monster Cup racing, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. drove around David Ragan after an overtime restart and then held off the field to win Saturday’s caution-filled Coke-Zero 400 at Daytona Int’l Speedway.

William Byron survived three red flag periods to score his second-straight NASCAR XFINITY Series victory on Saturday at Daytona Int’l Speedway during the Coca-Cola Firecracker 250. The grandstands were all but empty!

That’s about it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly, RI.